Tado, a leading European smart heating controls startup, has turned its attention to the global air conditioning market with a new product launched in the U.S. on Thursday.
Rather than develop a smart thermostat to compete against players like Nest and Honeywell, Tado is targeting room air-conditioning units.
Although central AC is increasingly common in the U.S., 85 percent of the world’s AC units are for individual rooms, including wall, window or portable units, Christian Deilmann, CEO and founder of Tado, said at a launch event in New York City. In China, sales of air conditioners have nearly doubled in the last five years, with more than 60 million units sold in 2013 alone.
New York City is a logical starting point for Tado’s global ambitions, as it houses the country’s largest collection of more than 6 million window AC units. Tado has a goal of being connected to 100,000 of those by next summer.
“Our mission is to make all ACs around the world smart,” said Leopold von Bismarck, chief marketing officer at Tado. “So it was a logical step to come to the U.S.”
The Tado smart AC control unit consists of a sleek square hub and an app. It can work with any air conditioner that has a remote control through the same infrared signal. The unit has a heat, humidity and motion sensor built in.
The unit can be mounted on a wall or placed on a shelf, but has to be within range of the AC. It can only control the AC unit in the room it is placed in. Like other smart thermostats for HVAC, Tado learns a home’s patterns and characteristics to better align AC use with the times when it’s likely to be needed.
Consumers can set preferred temperatures and then let Tado run in the background. It is equipped with geofencing technology so that as different residents who have the app leave and come back, Tado knows when it can turn the AC off or on. As with smart thermostats, Tado can also run on a set schedule.
Tado estimates energy savings could be as high as 40 percent, mostly through the use of the auto-off feature. Often, New Yorkers with window ACs leave the system cranking all day long even though no one is home so that they do not have to come home to a sweltering apartment at the end of the day.
Tado will automatically turn off after the last person has left, or users can adjust the away settings to their liking, in case your pooch or kitty needs some AC, but maybe not as much as you would. In the near future, users will also be able to adjust Tado based on humidity and not just temperature, as it is usually the humidity that makes people uncomfortable.
The solution is a more sophisticated offering than ThinkEco’s SmartAC thermostat kit, which allows for any window AC to be controlled via the internet or smartphone. At $199, the Tado smart AC control is more expensive than ThinkEco’s solution for $139, but far cheaper than Friedrich’s Wi-Fi-connected Kuhl room air conditioner for $899.
In Europe, the focus is on heating, as that is what drives peak energy consumption across much of the continent; Tado has a piece of hardware that connects directly to control the many different gas, oil or heat pumps or gas boilers found across the EU.
That experience has given Tado the confidence to claim its solution can work with any type of air conditioner as long as it has a remote, no matter the manufacturer. To integrate into the smart home, the Tado smart AC control is also Apple HomeKit-certified. In Europe, Tado has a network of partner retailers and utilities.
In New York, Con Edison is interested in controlling window AC units for demand response, and is working with ThinkEco, but could look for additional solutions as it looks to defer a $1 billion substation with demand-side resources. Tado's Deilmann said his company would like to pursue utility relationships as it has in Europe and would be announcing U.S. retail partners soon.
Tado operates in more than 10 European countries. The Munich-based startup has raised more than $15.75 million since 2012.